Tailgating, like football, requires a solid game plan. You can’t just show up at the stadium and expect to wing it.
(Just ask Tony Romo; he found that out the hard way!)
First off, check the tailgating rules at the stadium. You’ll need to know things like how many hours before the game they’ll let you into the lots to set up (five hours is the general rule at both AT&T and Amon Carter stadiums), grilling rules such as no deep fryers or open flames at AT&T Stadium, and drinking rules like no kegs allowed inside TCU parking.
TCU also requires a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water for each grill, but really you should have thought of that anyway.
Both the Cowboys and TCU allow charcoal and propane grills. Some stadiums only allow charcoal, so if you are going to an away game, be sure to check.
OK, now that we have the rules down, we can plan out a menu.
The guiding principle I have for tailgating is that the food needs to be fairly easy to cook while holding a beer — and it should probably be finger food or self-contained. Burgers and hot dogs will do in a pinch, but I am thinking walking tacos and sausage on a stick.
What’s a walking taco, you ask?
Take an open, snack-size bag of Fritos and fill it with chili, cheese and onions. Toss in a plastic spoon and you have a mobile Frito pie. Perfect for tailgating.
You can save time on game day by fixing the chili the night before. Both Wal-Mart and Amazon sell snack-size Fritos in bulk.
If you really want to simplify things, sausage on a stick is the way to go. But I’ve got a few tricks to make them even easier to eat. First, soak the sticks in water for 15 minutes, then slice the sausage into bite-size pieces before skewering them. This will make the sausage easier to eat. And besides, we don’t want anyone choking before kickoff!
Frito pie (walking taco version)
• Snack-size bag of Fritos
• 1/4 pound chili (recipe follows)
• 2 to 3 tablespoons shredded cheese
• 1 tablespoon diced onions (traditional) or pico de gallo
To assemble: Cut open Fritos bag with scissors, either across the top or lengthwise. Cover Fritos with chili, top with cheese and onions or pico, and serve with a spoon.
The secret to a good Frito pie is the chili, and to make a good chili you need a good chili powder — and plenty of it. One of the best is Pendery’s ( www.penderys.com) Fort Worth Light chili powder. Pendery’s (the inventor of chili powder) has been a fixture in Fort Worth for more than 140 years.
So once you are armed with a good chili powder, the rest is pretty easy. Just be sure to add the powder toward the end of the cook time instead of at the beginning so it doesn’t lose flavor.
This recipe is for every pound of chili meat, making it easy to adjust for the size of your tailgating gathering. Just figure about 1/4 pound of meat per Frito pie. This recipe takes less than an hour to fix and can be made a day ahead of time.
Start with coarse ground beef, also known as “chili grind” (you can ask the butcher at the grocery story to grind it that way).
For every pound of beef:
• Half an onion, diced
• 1 cup of beef or chicken stock, or 1 cup beer
• Half a package of Sazón Goya seasoning (try the Mexican food aisle) or 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
• 3 tablespoons Pendery’s Fort Worth Light chili powder, or 2 tablespoons store-brand chili powder and 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 4 crushed tortilla chips
1. In a pot, brown beef in vegetable oil on medium heat. Remove from pot and drain oil.
2. Add diced onions to the pot. Stir until translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes, then add beef back to the pot. Add stock or beer until meat is covered. Bring to a boil and add Sazón Goya or seasoned salt, stir, then reduce heat and let simmer covered for 15 minutes.
3. Add chili powder, sugar and crushed tortilla chips. Stir and let simmer for 10 minutes. Salt to taste, then let cool for 5 minutes before serving or transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm.
Sausage on a stick
• Smoked sausage (1 link per stick)
• Wood skewers
1. Soak skewers in water for 15 minutes.
2. Slice sausage into bite-size pieces, then skewer onto sticks.
3. Grill sausages on a hot grill till done, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Serve on the stick.